Alinghi's sails 'illegal' says Coutts

New Zealander Russell Coutts, the skipper of Oracle, claimed today that Swiss defender Alinghi is using "illegal" sails on its catamaran that is to face the US challenger in next month's America's Cup duel.

Coutts said he was is prepared to give Alinghi "several weeks" to change the sails if the Supreme Court of the State of New York rules in its favour on the issue.



Oracle last week asked the court to rule on whether Alinghi had infringed the competition's nationality rules by allegedly using US-made sails for its yacht.



Alinghi has said the sails are made in Switzerland.



But Coutts told AFP in a telephone interview that they were "molded and constructed" in the US state of Nevada.



The two bitter rivals are due to face off in a best-of-three event from February 8 in the Spanish port of Valencia to decide the 33rd edition of yachting's premier event.



If the New York court does not make a decision before then, the Americans said they would take part in the competition under protest, and the result could be overturned, Coutts said.



Oracle and Alinghi - owned respectively by billionaires Larry Ellison and Ernesto Bertarelli - have been arguing over the rules of the America's Cup in court since the Swiss syndicate won the last America's Cup in Valencia in 2007.



The New York Supreme Court ruled in April that the Cup should be settled by a one-on-one multihull duel between the two sides next February instead of the traditional fully-fledged regatta involving several teams.



Under the Deed of Gift, the 19th-century rules that govern the oldest competition in international sport, the participating vessels must be constructed in the country where the sailing club which they represent is located, which in Alinghi's case is Switzerland.



The two sides failed to reach an agreement on their latest dispute in talks in Singapore last week.



Coutts insisted it was the Swiss team which refused to sign a deal.



"At the last moment they told us, no we cannot sign this agreement..," which would have "settled all the outstanding questions," canceled all outstanding legal actions over the Cup and postponed the competition by one month until March 8.



Alinghi on Sunday said Oracle's "representatives clearly bear the substantial responsibility of the negotiations' failure."



Bertarelli said on Friday that the sails were made in Villeneuve, Switzerland.



"Should the American justice system outlaw their use, it would be like asking Roger Federer to defend his title without using his tennis racket. Oracle would win the America's Cup in court as, without our sails, we cannot race," he said.



Coutts responded Sunday by saying "Federer does not go to Wimbledon with illegal racquets".



Oracle's giant trimaran - which has a 50-metre fixed-wing sail - is to begin training on Tuesday off Valencia, where Alinghi's catamaran took the water this weekend.

Sourced from: The New Zealand Herald/AFP

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